Live Review: NME Awards Tour Featuring Two Door Cinema Club, Metronomy, Tribes and Azealia Banks at Newcastle Academy – 10th February 2012

By on Monday, 13th February 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Although the NME Awards Tour’s main purpose is to publicise the NME Awards themselves, with which this tour climaxes on 29 February, it is also a showcase for acts which the NME considers worthy summarisers of the state of the nation’s contemporary music scene. Looking back over the years, the Tour has had more than its fair share of fertile years, roughly every five attempts having a really standout lineup (2000, 2005, 2009); and surprisingly few misses – Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, anyone?

Despite the copious amounts of alcohol being sloshed around the venue, tonight’s sell-out is rife with actual children, as evidenced by the army of doting parents who appear at the end of the gig clutching warm coats and offering secure taxi rides home, all the better for their delicate offspring to be tucked up in bed with hot cocoa before the witching hour. As a result of the child-friendly schedule, BBC Sound of 2012 third place winner Azealia Banks has come and gone before TGTF arrives at 8 PM; the only clue to the contents of the NYC rapper’s set are the T-shirts on sale at the back of the venue, emblazoned with the logo “I Guess That Kunt Gettin’ Eaten”. Let’s hope no young minds were corrupted: you don’t hear that sort of language on Coronation Street.

Tribes win tonight’s award for band most likely to become a Bon Jovi tribute act. They’re most of the way there: lead singer Johnny Lloyd’s voice is already capable of a convincing impression of the poodle-haired New Jersey rocker. This is frankly their only virtue, judging by the trite songwriting and bland rock-by-numbers musicianship on offer tonight. Vapid lyrical themes abound: “Hello stranger, you’re just like me / We were children in the mid-’90s” (that line is not going to age well), and a song declared to be about coming of age… imaginatively titled ‘Coming Of Age’. There’s a mid-tempo balla-dy thing in the middle of the set which progresses exactly how you would expect: quiet acoustic guitar, band kick in with distorted guitars halfway through, big ending. Granted, maybe every year needs its rock pretenders, but Tribes are neither original nor engaging – any Nirvana comparisons are laughably optimistic. As befits a band hailing from Camden, there’s nothing ramshackle or scabrous here, it’s all polished, lowest common denominator stuff – radio-friendly unit shifters, to coin a phrase. C’est Bon, mais ce n’est pas bon.

Thankfully, Metronomy (pictured at top) bring some instruments that aren’t of the six-stringed variety and songs that are based on more than a handful of repeated root chords. Their gimmick being the large remotely-controlled light beacon each member hangs around their neck, which flashes in time with the music, tonight they come across as if the cast of The IT Crowd got together out of hours to play a few tunes. Live, the subtlety of Mercury-nominated ‘The English Riviera’ is subdued, the emphasis on amplifying the pastoral electronic funk which forms the backbone to their sound. Which is still pretty pleasing stuff: despite a slow start, the set warms up nicely; there’s a fine version of ‘Corinne’, ‘The Look’ reveals itself to be a far meatier prospect than on record, and a surprisingly heavy pseudo-dubstep instrumental wraps things up. Not quite to everyone’s taste, but enjoyable nonetheless.

And finally, after all the preamble, navigating sticky floors, and avoiding spilling beer on a small child’s head, here is the main event: the young Northern Irish bucks who make up Two Door Cinema Club. They are treated to the fullest light show that modern science can muster, and they deliver, completely and comprehensively. Like an art college Arctic Monkeys studying Nietzsche, their driving, off-beat rhythms, chiming and insistent lead guitar work and impressively powerful vocals from Alex Trimble appeal to the wide-eyed fresher’s week debutant in all of us. Certainly the impassioned screams to which they take the stage bear comparison with 1964-era Beatlemania. No mean feat.

With only one released album, most material is drawn from debut ‘Tourist History’, although we are treated to a newly-recorded track called ‘Handshake’. It’s more of the same: Caribbean-influenced drums, the complex interplay of rhythm and lead guitars, and some seriously heavy bass work from the temporarily-hobbled Kevin Baird, but none the worse for that. There’s something inscrutably familiar in their sound, but in the same way that most good things appear as if they have existed forever, this is no bad thing. Trimble is just the ticket with his ginger quiff and constantly-rotating plethora of delectable guitars, and the whole band simply hang together with the impression they were born to do this. TGTF is collared by a pair of excited young ladies who notice the camera and notebook; “Make sure you say it’s good!” they insist… there’s little chance of anyone here tonight thinking otherwise.

Only time will determine whether this year’s NME Awards Tour has succeeded in showcasing bands who have the best of their career ahead of them – Metronomy may have already peaked, and the less heard of Tribes the better – but Two Door Cinema Club could very well leap onto the pages of history with their second album. It would be nice if they last long enough for their legions of young followers to be allowed into a gig without needing their parents’ consent.

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